Dec. 18, 2017
Question: I am 69 years old and graduated 3 years ago from a college in Missouri with a 3.77 GPA. This was all online course work as the distance does not permit me to travel that much. I have some back trouble. My major is History. I used student loans for my education and was unable to repay them because my wife passed away with cancer 4 years ago and my financial situation did not permit me to pay. The Aid people forgave my loans after a period of time. I'd be interested in pursuing a Master's degree in History if I could do it online and with scholarship money to finance it. Is this possible? Please advise.
As a senior citizen myself (I'm 66), “The Dean" applauds your interest in continuing your education. However, I am not going to be very useful when it comes to helping you find money to fund your Master's degree, and I fear it will be an uphill battle for you. There are some scholarships for history graduate schools that you can find via a Google search ... but they are typically quite competitive and also so small (usually in the $1000 range) that they won't make much of a dent in the cost of your degree.
It would be helpful, however, to know exactly WHY you want to earn this degree. For instance, if you wanted to become a history teacher, there are a few programs that will provide funding to students who are willing to teach in an under-served community. But since you said that you have back trouble and hope to study online, it seems unlikely that teaching is in your future, and you would have to acquire teaching credentials as well as your history degree to land a job.
If your main goal is personal enrichment, then you can take advantage of the many opportunities that allow seniors to enroll in college classes (both in person or online) for free. Here's a state-by-state guide to the options: http://www.aseniorcitizenguideforcollege.com/p/find-your-state-tuition-waivers.html But, as you'll see, commonly these classes are cost-free but also credit-free, meaning that you wouldn't be able to earn a Master's Degree if you follow this route. In my state, Massachusetts, for-credit classes offered by public colleges are free to seniors, but I don't know if this would include matriculation in a Master's program. Yet it's something you can look into in your own state, if you haven't already.
And this article from AARP offers more suggestions on where seniors can find free online courses: https://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/life-long-learning/info-01-2011/free_online_learning.html It's not a new article but all—or at least most of—the suggestions are still current.
If you are determined to take for-credit classes, then check out this list of colleges and universities with online Master's in History degrees: http://www.bestcolleges.com/features/top-online-masters-in-history-programs/ Once you've read the program and course descriptions, if you hone in on a couple possibilities that excite you, you can apply for need-based financial aid and see how you make out. If your income and assets are sufficiently low, you may receive aid, although it probably won't be as much as you hope for. If your application for admission includes a compelling reason for your studies (e.g., you plan to write a book on a unique and intriguing topic), it could increase your chances of earning a scholarship.
Again, if I knew if you view your Master's in history as a stepping stone to a new job (or adventure), perhaps I could provide a little more direction than I'm able to offer here. And I'm posting this on the College Confidential Web site with the hope that some of our other members can provide you with better advice than "The Dean" has!
My condolences on the loss of your wife, and my best wishes to you as you take your next steps, wherever they may lead you.
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